The Dangers of End Of Life Software

November 01, 2017

I think it’s fair to say we have become something of a throwaway society. Not much today is built to last. This is certainly true in the ever-changing world of IT. We wrote recently about the useful life of IT hardware but software also reaches an ‘End Of Life’ date.

Simply put, End-of-Life for software is the date when a vendor stops delivering standard support for a product. Traditionally this includes voice and electronic technical support, software upgrades, support for new and known defects (service packs and updates), in addition to everyday usage and zeroing in on pinpointing and resolving technical problems.

So you’re not going to get any support anymore. So what? It’s always annoying when they make changes anyway and you’ve got the product working the way you want so you rarely call support anyhow.

Well, unsupported means that it’s also not maintained. Anything that’s not maintained becomes more likely to go wrong. Therefore, your likely to be needing support just when it’s not available.

Most seriously though, the bottom line is if you’re running End-of-Life software, you’re putting your data infrastructure at considerable risk.

The recent report on the NHS cyber-attacks cited that one of the issues that led to the attack was a failure to ‘migrate away from vulnerable older software’.

October saw the End of Life of two very well-known Microsoft products. Office 2007 and Outlook 2007. Both saw the end of support and Microsoft will no longer be issuing updates and patches. This means an increased security risk for those using these systems.

Still, even after End Of Life, some individuals and companies find it hard to let go, and they keep using End Of Life software at their own considerable risk.

Why using End Of Life Software is a Bad Idea

So what are the risks?

Security vulnerabilities

With End-of-Life software, patches, bug fixes, and security upgrades automatically stop. As a result, security is totally compromised. There’s no quick fix, either; vendors will simply no longer offer a patch if a vulnerability is found.

It’s not just the computers running the outdated software that are at risk, it’s the whole network. Using Microsoft as an example, PCs running Windows XP have a far greater risk of becoming infected with a virus, but once on the network, those viruses can impact newer versions of Microsoft products, including Windows 7 and Windows 10.

A firewall and anti-virus are not sufficient protection against unpatched vulnerabilities, which hackers are quick to exploit. Hackers or competitors can infiltrate networks, wreak havoc on infrastructures and steal your precious information.

Speaking of your information………….

Legal and regulatory risk

Data loss and exposure of corporate and personal data can have a tremendous impact on a business. The General Data Protection Regulations that becomes law from May 2018 means that the cost in fines for data compromises could cripple even the largest businesses.

GDPR is about risk assessment and mitigation. Companies that are still using software that is end of life are knowingly increasing their levels of risk. Companies like this are likely to face the heaviest penalties if their data is compromised.

One of the first things you should be doing to make sure you protect your data is to ensure that you are using the most up-to-date software available.

Incompatible Software 

New applications are released on an almost daily basis and these are optimised for the most recent Operating Systems.

That means when using an End Of Life OS, such as Windows XP or Windows Server 2003 systems, you can’t use the latest apps or upgrade to the newest versions of your software.

You’ll be forced to hold onto legacy applications and you’ll not have the latest features and developments. You’re then going to have problems with systems ‘talking’ to each other.

This is effectively asking staff to work with one hand tied behind their backs. This could lead to you falling behind your competition.

Poor performance and reliability

Older software is less efficient; you’ll almost certainly be able to save time with a software upgrade.

The chances are that if you’re still running legacy apps or old versions of Windows, then you’ve got some aging servers and workstations hanging around the office too. As we explain here this adds to your risk because these out-of-warranty devices are prone to breaking down.

Consider that downtime alone could be costlier than an overdue upgrade.

Staff Issues

Whether you think it or not your technology is a reflection of your business. People expect the latest, greatest gadgets. If they come to work and feel they are entering a time warp they could well become unhappy.

In the era of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) people expect their employers’ technology to be compatible with their own smartphones, tablets, and laptops.

Costs

Not buying the latest OS or software might initially look like a cost saving but the cost of one system failure will massively outweigh any savings made.

With the likes of Office 365 and other Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings, the upfront cost is likely to be much lower than you think.

Simply put, there’s no safe way to run End Of Life software. The risks typically outweigh the rewards, even if you’re tight on budget. Security, compatibility, and compliance are all big problems with EOL software.

Of course, any MSP can help. If you are running Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, Office 2007, Outlook 2007 or any other End of Life software we’d be only too happy to talk to you about how we can help.

Upgrading a whole company should not be attempted without support. Experts can talk to you about the compatibility of new and old systems, which hardware and infrastructure may need to be upgraded and may even be able to help fund the project via grants or hire purchase agreements.

How we can help

If you’re running End Of Life software, or you’re just not sure, we’d be happy to provide a free, no obligation network audit. We’ll let you know exactly what you’ve got and how you can improve your efficiency and security.

Just call FREE on 0115 822 0200, email info@your-itdepartment.co.uk or fill in our web form.

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